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TL Dallas at Wembley

And so it was that a party of 61 from TL Dallas Group; colleagues, family, friends and clients ended up standing side by side and as one with 32,000 others on that historic day at Wembley stadium, singing at the top of our voices for Bradford City at the end of what proved to be a game too far for our heroic team.

This cup story starts a long time before the 24th February 2013, and our links a long time before that. Bradford City were last in contention for a major trophy in 1911, when they won the FA Cup. That year’s FA Cup was made in Bradford by one of our longest standing clients, Thomas Fattorini. It was another 8 years before Colonel Thomas Lessels Dallas started our company and since then we have grown to be one of the most successful Independent Brokers in the UK.

For many years, including those fantastic 2 years from 1999 in the Premier League, TL Dallas had been a supporter of the club. When those glory days were over, many of their sponsors walked away and the club faced some very difficult times.

As one of Bradford’s longest standing businesses we wanted to show our support. After a number of meetings we eventually agreed with Julian Rhodes that we would take over sponsorship of The Bradford End; Symphony Group had, along with many others, lost faith and the stand was left bearing their name but producing no revenue in return.

Our good friends and clients New Vision Signs & Graphics worked with us to repaint and convert it into the shiny new TL Dallas Stand. Now in our 10th year, we have seen some very harsh times, frustrating managers, and underperforming players, but have also witnessed one of the most loyal crowds in the Football League and seen a club that just won’t lie down.

So came the start of the 2012-13 season; something was different. It wasn’t the new TL Dallas logo on the stand, or the new club anthem “Claret & Amber”, or the hoops instead of stripes; it was a new found hope and it came in some of the most amazing cup games seen for many years.

In the first couple of rounds of the Capital One Cup it just seemed like a bit of long overdue good luck, until we were on the verge of going out away to Watford. But suddenly, when everyone had almost given up hope, we turned the game round and won. The next game was at home to Burton and, 2-0 down at half time, we forced extra time and clawed back to 2-2. Up stepped young Steven Darby to put away the winner. Maybe this season was going to be different?

Next up – a money spinning tie away at Premiership Wigan. Off we went with the other 5,000 faithful and after 120 minutes it was stalemate at 0-0. We could hardly watch, but Bradford were gaining a reputation as penalty shoot out kings. They didn’t disappoint!

We awaited the quarter final draw with anticipation – Arsenal at home! A nice cash windfall but surely that was the end of our cup run. The TL Dallas Stand looked great on Sky TV, taking pride of place as a backdrop to the pundits and featuring in the build up. The ticket scramble was like nothing seen before, even in our Premiership years.Bradford City v Arsenal

It was a freezing cold night; the pitch was slowing turning frosty white. Out came the teams, on went the game, then we scored; 1-0. It stayed like that until the last minutes of normal time, then suddenly Arsenal scored – extra time looming. Surely their superior strength and international super stars would overwhelm us now, but we fought hard and after 120 minutes held it to another draw. Another penalty shootout beckoned, but this time gloriously staged in front of the TL Dallas Stand live on Sky TV! Making it through would be a new English Record, and to the ecstatic joy of the home crowd, it was!

Another draw, who would it be? High flying Chelsea, hard working Swansea or struggling Aston Villa? Aston Villa it was with a home draw for the first leg, Another cold night and another team of Premiership Millionaires. Can Bradford cause another upset? Will the stand look good on the TV again?

What a crowd, what a team, what a night. 3-1 to Bradford! But then a 2 week wait for the second leg at Villa Park – another cold night with a huge Villa crowd, all with flags waving and high expectations – surely they can thrash lowly Bradford City?

At one stage they had five highly paid Premiership strikers lining up to try get back the deficit. They managed 2 goals on the night, but our £7,500 striker James Hanson, who only a few years ago was stacking shelves at the Coop, scored a vital away goal; 4-3 to City!

At last the dream. “CITY ARE GOING TO WEMBLEY”.

We loved our day out; the pride of Bradford, the loyalty rewarded after the years in the wilderness, the 32,000 fans waving flags and singing “We love you City” right to the end, the stories at the motorway services, the day our city and our football club stood tall and proud for all to see.

My brother came to the game. At 56 minutes we stood and clapped for those 56 lost in the fire; they had also played their part in inspiring the faith and determination that had kept Bradford City going; he and many others remembered that day in 1985 – he had been there on duty as a Police Officer; celebrating one minute and devastated the next. Today was different: In the end the result wasn’t important; this was for the 56, for their families and for a club that never gave up.

At Wembley we had lost to Premiership Swansea in a game that on paper we should never have even played, but we had fought to be there and we had done Bradford proud. At TL Dallas we remain equally proud of our association with Bradford City Football Club, whether good times or bad. Let’s hope this is just the start of some more good times!

Mike Martin

Group Director